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4.6 out of 5 stars32
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Some studios never learn. Having nearly bankrupted the studio when Frank Capra's 1937 version went massively over budget and struggled to recoup its investment as they desperately cut the film again and again to get more shows in, 36 years later Columbia Pictures did the same thing all over again with producer Ross Hunter's version of Lost Horizon, this time adding songs in an era when musicals were bombing left right and centre and filling the cast with people who couldn't sing. It's not the first musical adaptation - there had already been a flop Broadway musical in 1956 and a TV version in 1960 called Shangri-La - but it's the one that has gone down in movie infamy that extensive re-editing did nothing to stem. The cuts started after the first previews, losing 23 minutes and most of its $12.8m budget by the time it ended its run, but surprisingly Sony have restored the film to its full 149-minute roadshow version in a rather splendid DVD-R release and a limited edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time that even more surprisingly features a wealth of extras.

It's easy to see the appeal of the project in the turbulent 70s, when studios were torn between low-budget films aimed at the disaffected youth market and big-budget flops trying to lure their parents back into theatres with nostalgia. Despite hints at the Vietnam war and political unrest back in the civilised world, it's the same story with the same universal appeal to people's desire for an eternal haven of peace on Earth that never translated into ticket sales when dramatised. It's at its best outside Shangri-La when it plays a glossy drama, with Peter Finch's philosophical diplomat and his sundry companions - younger brother Michael York, George Kennedy's engineer, Sally Kellerman's depressed reporter and Bobby Van's song and dance man - finding their last plane out of an Asian civil war hijacked and crashing in the mountains of Tibet. Luckily it's not long before John Gielgud turns up in bad Tibetan makeup from the nearest Lamasery and, after a trek through the ice they find themselves in Camelot, which has had a superficial facelift since Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave moved out and is now calling itself Shangri-La...

And that's when the problems start. Capra's film struggled to find the drama in the middle section as the valley's secret was uncovered and its hero faced with the choice of a haven from strife in a world where time is almost meaningless or returning to the chaos of the modern world where his ideas meet with approving sounds but are never acted upon. It had been assumed that some of the problems were down to the re-editing, but the restored version does little to improve matters. Perhaps what's most curious about it is how appropriately relaxed the pace is while at the same time never getting round to showing things we really should be seeing or finding out about - the cause of Kellerman's despair, the growing romance between Finch and Liv Ullman (who doesn't get a proper scene with Finch until 111 minutes into the film!) or York and Olivia Hussey, the growing suspicions about their arrival in Shangri-La... Instead it just marks time with the odd musical number along the way. And there's at least one very odd musical number back in the picture now.

The most notorious of the cuts has been restored, the quite jaw dropping fertility dance performed in the middle of the Living Together, Growing Together number by what looks like a bunch of oiled-up refugees from Muscle Beach in dayglo orange loincloths. Camp doesn't even begin to describe it, Hermes Pan's choreography (basically ripping off the opening of La Bayadaire without the exciting bits) not just coming out of the closet but chopping it up into matchsticks and making tiny pink parasols out of them. And it's still one of the dance highlights of the film thanks to cast who often fare even worse dancing than they do singing - poor old Liv Ullman's big number simply sees her waving her arms and legs from side to side in a slightly less ambitious version of the `white guy dance' demonstrated by uncoordinated drunken dudes in nightclubs around the world every weekend.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David's songs are less than outstanding, to put it mildly, the kind of 70s easy listening where the word easy seems not just wildly overoptimistic but downright misleading. On the verge of dissolving their partnership at the time, they reek of contractual obligation with odd moments of professionalism that almost work while never rising above the standard of a weak 70s TV variety show (even Ross Hunter acknowledged "it was a bum score"). The ideas aren't bad - one duet has two characters singing their thoughts over an innocuous scene - but the execution often is: after 40 song-free minutes, the film jumps into the first big number, The World is a Circle, so clumsily it's like someone got the reels in the wrong order and turned the volume up to 11 while Peter Finch's big soul-searching number is an exercise in agony as he changes key mid-word and can't even talk his way through the quieter moments a la Rex Harrison (he's reputedly dubbed, but for some reason they seem to have chosen his voice on the grounds of sounding like Finch rather than being able to sing any better). Worse, they're mostly showstoppers in the worst sense, having so little to do with plot or character that you could cut most of them out and never miss a thing.

Even technically it's less impressive than a film that cost so much should be. While Columbia's epics often had a handsome look, once this gets away from the decent mountain location work and arrives at Shangri-La, the film has more of the in-house look of a cheap Universal comedy film from the late 60s-early 70s, which isn't so surprising considering producer Ross Hunter and forgotten A-list director Charles Jarrott were both big noises on the Universal lot. Yet somehow, despite the miscasting, despite the bad singing, despite the under-developed screenplay and all the missed opportunities, some of the magical yearning of James Hilton's novel survives, making the film a curious mix between a guilty pleasure and an underdog you want to give a second chance. It doesn't repay that chance particularly well, but there's still something there...

While it's a shame that Columbia have only released this special edition as a Region 1 NTSC manufactured-on-demand DVD-R, it's an impressive widescreen transfer and the extras are plentiful and welcome: an alternate version of one musical number, I Come to You, vintage featurette Ross Hunter on the Road to Shangri-La, Ross Hunter's introductions to a promo reel presentation for US cinema managers, 8 song demos by Burt Bacharach, 2 TV spots, teaser trailer and full theatrical trailer. All but the introductions to the promo reel (which largely repeat material in the featurette in between telling you how great a scene that's no longer included is) have been carried over to Twilight Time's excellent region-free limited edition (3000 copies only) Blu-ray pressing, which also includes an isolated score track, booklet and an excellent widescreen transfer and is definitely the version for fans to track down.
33 comments|15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 March 2012
It took a few years before this is available in DVD, while many sub-quality DVD titles flood the market, something I never understand.

This is indeed a fantastic film not known to younger generation. It is beautifully filmed, a good story, nice setting and nice music.

The evacuation scene seemed to be prophetic of the scene at Saigon!

The supplier through was good and reliable. Highly recommended for both the DVD and the supplier.
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on 7 February 2012
I have loved this musical since seeing it at the cinema as a child and have played the songs to death on both vynal, cd and now itunes, Having owned an old 4 x 3 mono print taped from the TV, I have been looking for a Cinemascope version with Stereophonic sound. I did purchase one on EBay a few years ago which is admittedly in that format, but taped from a laserdisc source so picture quality on my 65" TV is awful, though the sound (2 channel Dolby Surround) is not too bad on the 9.2 system. I very much want to buy from Amazon the official Sony Release which is advertised as brand new, however many of the reviewers on here talk of it as having a MONO soundtrack, but that this has been rectified and it now has a proper 5.1 surround track. I have asked the sellers about this but all of them say they are unable to tell me about the soundtrack. My question is fellow reviewers, if I purchase the DVD and it does only have the mono track, how do I go about contacting Sony (or whomever) to get the 5.1 replacement disc? UPDATE: 24th FEB 2013: Have just received the Lost Horizon DVD from the States and yes it is in glorious full 6.1 Dolby Digital EX and the picture quality is excellent...Sharp, bright and colourful....HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
UPDATE 16th APRIL 2014: The Blu Ray version of this movie just arrived at my door from America (Courtesy of "Twilight Time" and boy what a difference. The picture clarity, sharpness and colour is amazing for a movie from 1973. The Cinemascope frame is even superior to the DVD version from the states (and that is pretty good quality) The sound is DTS HD Master 5.1 and very good too. Also the blu ray is Region Free so plays on UK Blu Ray machines. Actually it's surprising how many of the American discs are region free or have region B (UK) encoding. Check out Blu which will tell you if an American Blu Ray is compatable - we have now ordered "The Slipper And The Rose", "Gypsy" and "My Fair Lady" from there - all Cinemascope with DTS HD 5.1 Surround.
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on 27 March 2012
I saw this film when it first came out about 40 years ago and enjoyed it. I've been wanting to see it again and was pleased to see it had at long last been released on DVD. I did order through Amazon UK but after a few days was told it was no longer in stock so bought my copy from Amazon USA.
I enjoyed seeing the film again and whilst I admit it might not be a great musical it will stand being watched a few times. Good catchy music.
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on 3 December 2011
I first saw this version of "Lost Horizon" when it came out and was very disappointed by it. Rewatching it after almost 40 years, I have revised my opinion: delete the innane songs and the film is a very enjoyable version of Hilton's haunting story. I still think Frank Capra's film, starring Ronald Colman, is a great classic and more rewarding viewing than this version - I highly recommend it - but this 1973 version has many well-crafted scenes. The interviews between the High Lama (movingly played by Charles Boyer) and Conway (Peter Finch) are especially well acted. People with a special love for the tale of Shangri-La can watch this version with pleasure.
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on 20 April 2014
Not many musicals have their songs written by one of the greatest songwriting duos of all time, Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Among their numbers in this warm, escapist movie, those that stand out include The Things I Will Not Miss, Reflections, The World Is A Circle and Living Together. Quintessential Bacharach tunes. But apart from the music, this Himalayan adventure glows with evocative landscapes, an all-star cast and, most of all, a feel good reminder of how rich and natural, loving and harmonious life can be when we put aside greed and egoism and live simply, for the benefit of all. Does this sound like Paradise? Well, what else is Shangri La meant to be?

The central performance here is Peter Finch who brings the right amount of dignity, respect and humilty to his role as a high-flying diplomat who is asked to play a very important part in the future of Shangri La.... the reason in fact, that he and his fellow westerners have been kidnapped and flown there. But not all of his companions want to stay in paradise. And thence begins the drama. This is a movie that many have panned and villified. But one also that many others adore and watch time and again for its genuine feelgood quality. Much of this must be due to the loving care and attention lavished on it by producer Ross Hunter. I personally love this 1973 version of Lost Horizon and I hope you will too.
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on 13 November 2011
It's fantastic that they finally released the full-length version of Lost Horizon. Too bad they dropped the ball and released it only as an MOD (made on demand DVD-r) rather than a DVD or a Blu-ray. Be warned that earlier copies have a mono track rather than a surround track. Reportedly this has been fixed in later MODs. Be great if a region 2 DVD gets released.
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on 16 November 2013
Let's get this out of the way from the very start: It's easy to mock this film and plenty of people have. In fact, to some it appears to be a kind of sport. I think a lot of people slate it simply because others have and, therefore, they must do so as well in order to appear 'trendy'. Well, I don't care what people think. I make my own mind up based on what I see and hear and I decided to write this to put the record straight and to put right some of the other reviews (although each to their own).

First, a bit of history. I vividly recall seeing this film when it was first released in 1973, with my friend from school. I remember leaving the cinema overjoyed by what I had seen. I loved the musical sections (more on this later) and the story was nicely told.

So how could I like the film when it was universally panned (then as now)? First off, reviews are not like today. You couldn't hop on to the web and check out IMDB (which in some cases can unfairly affect your judgement of a film you are about to see). So what other people thought of this didn't ever register. You needed specialist magazines to get that information. The only critic was you and, as I've said, I absolutely loved the film.
These days, to admit that is akin to heresy but I don't care. One of the nice facets of the film were the songs. I know Bacharach has publicly said that he never liked them. It is not possible to know what the composer intended. We can only judge on what they release to us, the public. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or ear of the listener) and I came away very impressed with the quality of most of them. I particularly liked Olivier Hussey's song 'Share The Joy', `The World Is A Circle' as well as the title track sung by Sean Phillips.

Also, I've heard it said that Bacharach was in a bad place at the time so perhaps his own judgement was clouded?

Here's where it gets interesting and some reviewers are plain incorrect. The songs weren't sung by all of the actors. Peter Finch had a stand-in as, I believe, Olivia Hussey. Sally Kellerman does a fair job as does Liv Ullman. Does this matter? No. The first thing to remember is that this is not a dancing and singing troupe that have crashed. They are regular everyday people. So, even if they sung badly you could argue that, in a way, this was accurate. Not many of us have a singing voice to win talent contests, do we. However, you do need a certain standard so I guess this is why the stand-in's were hired and they do a great job sounding like the actors they represent.

The other thing to remember is that they (the people that have crashed) have some pretty bad personal experiences (not all of them elaborated on) and they find happiness here and, shock, they might actually want to sing to express their happiness - as we might do when we feel happy. I think the songs are ultimately justified for this film.

Here is the other thing (and this is my own personal opinion). Bizarrely, I don't actually regard it as a true musical in the sense that Les Mis is. The songs in Lost Horizon are there to complement the story and, in some cases, are there as entertainment for the characters themselves (so don't really count). A bit like the original Snow White And The Seven Dwarves where songs like 'Heigh-ho' were there to explain what they did (mining). Not for the sake of it like later Walt Disney films where you *had* to have a whole bunch of (mostly) rubbish musical numbers.
Examples for this film are:
Share the joy. As entertainment whilst enjoying their first meal.
World is a circle: To explain religion/never ending life to school kids as part of class.
Still, other songs are to explain the thoughts of the actor such as Peter Finches 'I might frighten her away'. Just speaking those thoughts wouldn't have had the same impact. It works for me.

There have been comments on the relationship between Liv Ullman and Peter Finch. This is not shown in a date-by-date account. That would take too long and spoil the flow. Right from the off, it is clear they have an attraction for each other and the picnic and walking in the gardens re-enforce the growing romance. So for me, this is convincing enough.

Basically, for the most part the songs are subtly done. The only exception is the fertility dance. There was no need for loin cloths and the song should have been cut. Anyway, it only lasts a couple of minutes. So, by now you've hopefully understood that I really like the film and the music is good and works.

In the end, the film comes down to hope, love and happiness and to lead a worthwhile and wholesome life. In that regard, it succeeds admirably.

On to the DVD itself. After all of this time, I am able to see it again on an official DVD. It has been a long time coming and it was only a recent web search that hinted it was now available. It is hard to get this in the UK and eventually bought it from the USA courtesy of 'All Your Music'. It was listed as region 1. This could be a problem but I thought get it first and ask questions later.
The DVD arrived well packaged in the specified time so kudos to 'All Your Music'. I popped it into my Blu-Ray player and waited for the 'Invalid Region' error. Shock. It worked perfectly! It looks as though the DVD is manufactured as a Region-free DVD. Hurrah!!
The colours are eye-popping and the image quality excellent (probably due to the up-scaling).. For a DVD I was impressed. Not quite Blu-Ray but close enough. Incidentally, the Blu-Ray itself was limited to 3000 copies and are quite expensive.

Do I still think it's a great film after all these years? Yes, emphatically. Does it have flaws? Yes but they are minor. Does they spoil the film? No. Do I think the film was unfairly treated after all of these years? Yes, I do.

So, buy this film and enjoy the story and the music and make your own mind up.
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on 15 July 2012
Very good film.They don't make musical dramas like this anymore. Most of these actors are not with us anymore.Peter Finch was a good Ausie actor.
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on 9 February 2013
If you would like to dream of a place where worry is no more then pop this DVD in and dream the dream.
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